Harinordoquy: We won't bottle it again
May 17, 2010
Imanol Harinordoquy inspired Biarritz to a thoroughly deserved victory over Munster in the semi-finals © Getty Images
Biarritz No.8 Imanol Harinordoquy has admitted that the Basques "went to pieces" in the 2006 Heineken Cup final but is adamant that they will maintain their composure in next weekend's tournament decider against Toulouse in Paris.
In their first ever appearance in Europe's showpiece game, Biarritz were beaten 23-19 by Munster in Cardiff and the pain of that defeat is a massive motivating factor for Harinordoquy ahead of their second tilt at the title.
"The 2006 Heineken Cup final is a very bitter memory," he said. "I didn't even want the runners-up medal. What drove me mad was the feeling that we were not ready for the event. The Millennium Stadium was heaving with 40-50,000 Irish supporters and I think our players went to pieces. This time we won't make the same mistakes.
"When you think back to 2006 it was logical that we reached the final considering our form that season. Yet on the day, even though we had the best team on the field, we lost in Cardiff. But this year I really believe in what we are doing. We are not favourites, but I really think we stand a chance. These are games that are won through your desire and group solidarity and we have enough determination to bring the Heineken Cup back to Biarritz."
However, Harinordoquy is under no illusions about the enormity of the challenge ahead of Biarritz, believing their French rivals to be the best side in European club rugby.
"Toulouse are a model of consistency," the France international said. "In terms of squad, structure and results Toulouse are certainly the No 1 club in France - and probably Europe as well.
"I compare them slightly to the All Blacks, especially when you see their three-quarter play and how fast they react on the counter attack. On paper they are the favourites, and they are a team that we don't often beat, but I believe we can beat them.
"And I am like most children - I always want what I don't have. It's so hard to get to a Heineken Cup final and winning it would be so dear to me. But not just for me of course, but also for the club's history and for all our supporters. We experienced the joy of winning the French Championship in 2005 and 2006 and we really want to share that feeling again with all the Biarritz fans."
Meanwhile, Harinordoquy's team-mate Magnus Lund believes that after victories over Ospreys and Munster in the knockout stages Biarritz are more than capable of defying the odds once again.
"A lot of people were doubting us - should we be in the quarter-finals and then should we be in the semi-finals - and I think those last two tournament victories have proved a few people wrong and if people keep writing us off we will be happy to take that and just go out there and do the work," he said.
"Those players who had been in the Heineken Cup final before said at the start of the season this was something they wanted to experience again and now while we are happy we are there it is a case of not just getting to the final it is the winning of it.
"The boys have worked really hard for this and it is great for the team while for my part I am just happy to be playing in the team and getting picked as there are a lot of good players not making the side. There is a really good team spirit and that is what has driven us this far - and I hope it takes us one step further and that we can pull it off."
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby